Jakob Fuglsang will ride in the service of Andy and Fränk Schleck at the 2011 Tour de France but the Danish talent will also have more opportunities to chase his own ambitions in the colours of his new team, Leopard-Trek.
“I think I will have more personal freedom than I had but I think that’s natural,” Fuglsang told Cyclingnews at the Leopard-Trek presentation in Luxembourg. “It’s my third year on the road now and I’ve also grown as a rider so they’re going to give me more freedom I think.”
Fuglsang will enjoy a similar build-up to the Tour de France as he did in 2010 and he ruled out the possibility of going to the Giro d’Italia as Leopard-Trek’s leader. For the most part, he will follow the same programme as the Schleck brothers, and the objective for all three is to reach July in peak condition.
“I’m going to go 100 per cent for the Tour,” he explained. “I want to be 100 per cent there to help Fränk and Andy and maybe also try to do something for myself in the Tour, but there’ll be no Giro for me.
“I’m going to have the same preparation as Fränk has and more or less the same as Andy. I’m not going to go to California, but I have the Tour of Luxembourg and the Tour de Suisse before the Tour.”
Before the Tour rolls around, however, Fuglsang will be aiming to be competitive at Amstel Gold, Flèche Wallone and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, races that he believes suit his characteristics.
“The Ardennes classics are where I want to try and do something,” Fuglsang said. “We’ll have to see how it goes. I have to get some more wins than I did last year and I have to find them somewhere.”
Fuglsang will start those classics on an equal footing with the Schleck brothers, and he believes having a trio of leaders will play to Leopard-Trek’s advantage in the Ardennes.
“I think we’re going to be on the start line with three captains and then we’ll see when we’re out there who is the one with the legs and who is the one the other guys aren’t looking at. We have to play it smart.”
Taking on the world
With the world championships taking place in Denmark in September, it is no surprise that Fuglsang is hoping to feature prominently on home roads. While he recognises that the flat road race circuit may not be best adapted to his talents, he is aiming to be competitive in the time trial.
“The course doesn’t really suit me for the road race but of course I hope to be part of the team,” he said. “I’d really like to do the time trial and focus on it. I’ve already been working on my time trial position on the Trek and I believe that I can be faster than I am. If I can gain a little bit of time, then I’m not looking too bad.”
Fuglsang impressed at the 2009 Vuelta a España and he may well line up in the race again as he builds form for the Worlds. However, his primary autumnal goal will be the Tour of Lombardy, where he finished a solid 4th last season.
“The Vuelta is a possibility, I’d like to do it to prepare for the Worlds,” he said. “Then there are the last Italian races. I really like that last part of the season in Italy and they have some really great races. Lombardia is one that I’d really like to win in the future.”
While a recurring refrain at the Leopard-Trek launch was an insistence that the team marks a definitive new departure from the Saxo Bank team, Fuglsang acknowledged that for him the fundamentals of racing remain unchanged in his new environment.
“We have new bikes, new bosses, new everything and it is a new team, but at the end of the day it comes down to the same thing. It’s about riding your bike and doing it as fast as you can,” he said. “As the slogan here says, it’s “true racing” and that’s something I really like. It’s about racing.
“Maybe you don’t win all the races but at least you put on a good show and do a good race. That’s what it’s about at the end of the day and that’s why I don’t think there’s such a big difference from how it was on Saxo Bank.”
Fuglsang also admitted that it was a relief to put the rumours and speculation surrounding the make-up of the team and the identity of its sponsors behind him. The Dane is simply keen for the hype to subside and the action to start.
“We were talking about contracts and who would sign and it took a long time to release everything,” he said. “Now that the name of the team has been released, it’s good that we can talk freely rather than have to think, ‘we cannot say this or we cannot say that.’ It’ll be nice to get on the road, get some numbers on our backs and show what we can do.”